Coffee chains have banned the use of reusable cups in UK stores amid the coronavirus outbreak. Starbucks was the first to announce the policy change on 4 March, while Pret, Costa Coffee and Greggs followed suit this week.
In the past few years, as part of their green initiatives, many coffee chains introduced policies to offer discounts on beverages if customers chose to bring in a reusable cup, rather than use a disposable one.
As UK coronavirus cases continue to rise, multiple chains have confirmed they will no longer be accepting reusable cups. Starbucks, Costa and Pret said they will still honour the previous discounts offered to customers who bring their own cup to show staff.
Dr Edward Wright, a senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Sussex, explained why reusable cups might be a problem for the spread of coronavirus.
“SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, is a respiratory virus. This means the virus replicates in cells that line the airways and given the proximity of the airway and mouth, new virus particles produced can readily contaminate the saliva,” he told HuffPost UK.
“Therefore, reusable cups that have not been cleaned and have the virus on their surfaces pose a potential route of transmission for respiratory infections if the cup comes into contact with the coffee machine.”
Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist also based at the University of Sussex, previously told HuffPost UK that the major way for coronavirus to be transmitted is via coughs and sneezes. However, it is possible for transmission to occur from touch via contaminated surfaces – which could mean anything from self-service check-outs to coffee cups.
On the subject of coffee cups, Dr Macciochi added: “Reusable cups could be a problem for the same reason hand washing is important. We are passing things that we have handled between people and we do not know how vigilant they have been with hygiene. It only takes one virus landing on one surface to lead to transmission.”